Twelve jobs will be cut at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University as a result of the state’s weakening economy.
The high-profile institute, involved in cutting-edge health and biology research, is partially supported by state sales taxes, and that revenue has declined as consumers cut back on purchases.
The job cuts will be effective in 30 days, said Deputy Director Neal Woodbury.
The program that is feeling the pinch, called the Technology and Research Initiative Fund, or TRIF, was approved by voters in 2000. It provided a 0.6-cent increase in the state sales tax to support research at the state’s three universities, said Kimberly Ovitt, director of communications for the Biodesign Institute.
“It was a significant portion of our budget,” she said. “It peaked in 2007, and we have been reducing our reliance on that as more external funding was generated from philanthropy, the federal government and industry.”
But the institute still relies enough on the sales tax to be affected by the economic slump, she said.
The cuts are separate from the ongoing debate about university budgets at the Arizona Legislature. ASU President Michael Crow has said thousands of ASU jobs could be eliminated if lawmakers approve a proposed $150 million cut in ASU’s budget next year.
The Biodesign Institute is facing a $2.5 million shortfall this year because of the TRIF problem, Woodbury said. That’s out of $14.5 million the institute had expected from that source, he said.
To close the gap, the institute is eliminating its high school outreach program, which brings high school science teachers and students to the Tempe campus.
Also eliminated is the research-management group, which helps to organize future research efforts, Woodbury said.
Although existing projects will continue to be funded, “we will be dry in terms of pushing new things forward,” he said.
Other cuts have already been made in human resources and facilities staff, he said.
The institute has been involved in some of ASU’s most important research projects. For example, it is working on a venture with BP and Science Foundation Arizona to build a bioreactor that uses microbes to create diesel fuel. Also it is researching vaccines for diseases such as malaria, HIV and cancers.
The institute employs nearly 600 researchers, staff and student assistants.